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To describe the contribution of garden dormice to the epizootiology of
Lyme disease, we compared their reservoir capacity for these pathogens to that of other sympatric hosts. Garden dormice are trapped most abundantly during early spring and again during midsummer, when their offspring forage. They are closely associated with moist forests. Garden dormice serve as hosts to nymphal ticks far more frequently than do other small mammals. Spirochetal infection is most prevalent in dormice, and many more larval ticks acquire infection in the course of feeding on these than on other rodents in the study site. Mature dormice appear to contribute more infections to the vector population than juveniles do. Replete larval ticks generally detach while their dormouse hosts remain within their nests. The population of garden dormice contributes five- to sevenfold more infections to the vector population than the mouse population does. Their competence, nymphal feeding density, and preference for a tick-permissive habitat combine to favor garden dormice over other putative reservoir hosts of
Lyme disease spirochetes.